By GARY KNOWLES
In recent years, pop culture in general has sought to bring characters to the big screen which are more relatable to a wider variety of people. One such character is LeFou in the new live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film from Disney, released on March 16, 2017.
The character was not well received by all. CNN reporter Jay Croft in his article “Alabama theater shuns ‘Beauty and the Beast’ over gay ‘moment’” writes, “‘Beauty and the Beast’ won’t be the guest of [Henegar Drive-In Theatre] in Alabama because of a new, gay twist.”
Sadly, this type of reaction has not been an isolated event as the Disney film has even been banned in Kuwait where homosexuality is criminalized, according to the Washington Post. Most of the places refusing to show the film have religious or political oppositions against homosexuality.
UMW junior Sheridan Farmer said, “[I don’t] think that a children’s/family movie should really be a place to bring politics.” However, later Farmer clarified her point, saying, “I really don’t think it’s a big deal and it definitely will not prevent me from going to see [“Beauty and the Beast.”]
Another UMW student, Amber Marie Kintz, commented, “I don’t think it’s a political thing. It’s a life thing.”
Having LeFou portrayed as a gay man allows people who don’t identify as heterosexual to see a character they can find more relatable. Over the past couple decades, being non-binary has started to become less stigmatized. It is important in a children’s film to show them that it is okay to be different from everyone else.
Pop culture provides more than just entertainment. It shows us different facets of life. Representing characters such as LeFou allows kids to be exposed to people who may be different than themselves. In addition, for the few potential non-binary children sitting in the audience, it may be one of the only characters like themselves that they get exposed to at an early age.
Despite the criticism of Disney’s new “Beauty and the Beast,” the gay narrative is just a small part of the film. According to Huffington Post, the film’s star Emma Watson stated that the gay narrative “[is] incredibly subtle.”
The subtlety of LeFou makes some of the backlash to the film seem ridiculous, as it is such a small part of the whole. In most cases during the film the references to LeFou’s sexuality are almost unnoticeable.
Disney definitely took a step in the right direction with the changes they have made to “Beauty and the Beast.” However, there is still an absence of a true “gay fairy tale.” In general, fairy tales assume the main romance is a straight one. With people embracing change more often and owning their unique identities it would be interesting to see if there will be a gay fairy tale in the coming years.